Minera IRL Says Argentine Restrictions Won’t Hurt Gold Project

Minera IRL Ltd. (MIRL), a U.K. gold producer with operations in South America, won’t be affected by Argentine government restrictions on imports of mining equipment, President Diego Benavides said.

IRL’s South American unit, based in Lima, will be allowed to import any machinery not produced locally for its $60 million Don Nicolas gold project in Argentina’s Santa Cruz province, he said. Coeur d’Alene Mines Corp. said yesterday it will reduce activity at its Martha gold mine in southern Argentina because of rising operational costs.

“We won’t have any restrictions,” Benavides said yesterday in a phone interview in Lima. “We have an agreement with the authorities.”

IRL dropped the most since Dec. 14 in Lima trading yesterday on investor concern over Argentine import restrictions and speculation protests may resume in Peru’s southern highlands where the company is developing its Ollaechea gold project, said Carlos Rojas, a trader at Andino Asset Management SAC.

IRL shares plunged 10 percent to 70 cents. The stock has slumped 39 percent this quarter.

“Any noise about mining will hit this project,” Rojas said in an interview yesterday from Lima. “IRL’s Corihuarmi mine only has another five years of production left, so the company’s counting on the Ollaechea deposit.”

IRL produced 33,255 ounces of gold last year at its Peruvian Corihuarmi mine.

Protests

Walter Aduviri, who headed demonstrations that forced the government to suspend Bear Creek Mining Corp. (BCM)’s Santa Ana silver project in the southern Andean Puno region last year, may resume protests, Lima-based daily La Republica reported yesterday. IRL’s $170 million Ollaechea deposit is located in the same area.

Community protests in Peru have suspended projects operated by Newmont Mining Corp. (NEM) and Southern Copper Corp. (SCCO), undermining a government drive to attract $50 billion of mining investments over the next decade.

IRL isn’t aware of any specific factors causing the stock’s decline, Benavides said.

The company’s Ollaechea operation wasn’t affected by last year’s protests, which occurred in a different part of the Puno region, Benavides said. The company, which signed a 30-year surface rights agreement for the project with villagers on June 7, enjoys good community relations, he said.

“I never shut my operations,” Benavides said. The community protected the company when there were strikes in surrounding areas, he said.

The company plans to have financing in place within six months to develop the mines in Argentina and Peru, Benavides said in a May 15 interview.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alexander Emery in Lima at aemery1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Attwood at jattwood3@bloomberg.net

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